On July 9, a meeting of the Commission on the Investigation of Foreign Interference in Russia's Internal Affairs was held at the State Duma. Attempts of foreign media and non-profit organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations recognized as foreign agents to influence the recent national vote on constitutional amendments were discussed at the meeting.
As the Chairman of the Commission Vasilii Piskarev
Vasily Ivanovich emphasized, the Commission had revealed numerous facts of foreign interference in the voting process.
Thus, according to the parliamentarian, the facts of the dissemination of destructive, misleading and provocative information by non-profit organizations funded by the governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the USA, Czech Republic, Sweden and the European Commission, and undesirable NGOs in Russia, as well as foreign media outlets, in particular, Deutsche Welle, BBC News Russian, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and its regional projects, as well as TV channel “Current Time”, Meduza, Open Media, MBK-Media had been revealed.
“We have revealed numerous facts of violations by foreign media recognized as foreign agents, when disseminating information, including political campaign materials without relevant mark with disclosure [that the information was given by a “foreign agent’]. In our opinion, all these publications were aimed at affecting freedom of expression of our voters,” stressed Vasilii Piskarev and mentioned as example the publication of Voice of America, which also did not have the relevant mark.
The parliamentarian paid attention to the dissemination of, as he said, ”tendentious“ results of opinion polls during the voting process on amendments to the Constitution, in particular provided by the Levada Center recognized as a foreign agent.
The Commission also revealed facts of manipulation by the American video-sharing platform YouTube in suggested video showed to Internet users. “If you type in YouTube “voting on amendments to the Constitution”, you will be showed a big selection of negative materials. We already faced exactly the same situation in September 2019 during the last year’s election campaign,” recalled Vasilii Piskarev.
The parliamentarian also emphasized that they “had received information on the increased foreign funding of Russian non-profit organizations by 20% and that may be indicators of attempts to disrupt the Russian national vote”.
The Chairman of the Committee
on Issues of Public Associations and Religious Organizations Sergei Gavrilov
Sergey Anatolievich noted “expanding involvement of foreign non-profit organizations in humanitarian programmes. There are more and more undercover political activities of organizations that declare their main activities include issues of education, fight against social diseases, drugs, or promotion of civic activism, human rights, sports, spiritual, moral and cultural activities.” Sergei Gavrilov called such undercover political activities the key threats.
The Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Petr Tolstoy
Petr Olegovich recalled the statements and actions of foreign embassies that tried to affect the voting on constitutional amendments on protection of the family institution by accusing Russia of allegedly violating the rights of LGBT community.
“When the ambassador [of Canada] just before the voting started said that minorities were oppressed in our country and added that we should not support the amendments that had been put to the vote, and it seems to me that situation was beyond diplomacy. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should react to this situation. I mean not only the ambassador of Canada, but also the diplomatic representatives of the five countries,” said Petr Tolstoy. He urged the Foreign Ministry to act more decisively on such issues.
Vasilii Piskarev stressed that all the revealed facts of interference in the voting process on the amendments to the Constitution had been sent to the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation for legal assessment and decision-making in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation.
The Commission intends to accelerate work on the draft law on responsibility for studying in foreign NGOs recognized undesirable in Russia.
Representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) and the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation also took part in the meeting of the Commission.